More than thirty residents attended the special Parish Council meeting on Thursday 11th October to hear details of the progress on the revision of the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) following the recent Regulation 14 consultation.
Councillor Peter Rose, chairman of the NDP Steering Committee gave a presentation outlining the history of the NDP to date and the current content of the recently revised draft of the plan. Many comments were received in the Regulation 14 consultation but these mainly concerned site allocations, the Community Hub site and the countryside/green gap policy.
In the revised plan, two sites have been ‘allocated’, the Community Hub site and the Kler site on the corner of Didcot Road and Fieldside, and two sites, the existing village hall and school have been ‘safeguarded’. South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) is unhappy that these sites are safeguarded rather than allocated. The Parish Council is seeking a legal opinion on this.
The main issues over the hub site concern the viability of the project, and the size of the site and number of houses. The meeting was told that the preferred developer and landowner have agreed that the maximum number of houses will be forty-five, and the parish council will no longer be asked to purchase the redundant land.
Regarding the concerns about the increased size of the site, it was explained that this related to the requirement by Oxfordshire County Council that the school has a larger playing field. The expansion of the site is almost entirely playing field area.
There was a question over the validity of the Countryside ‘green gap’ Policy to protect the village from ‘Didcot creep’. A landscape report was recommended but the cost is prohibitive. However, this part of the report has been improved using landscape details from Didcot Garden Town and other sources, and the site allocations should also help.
The meeting was told that because of next year’s district council elections in May, South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) has placed an embargo on all referenda between March and June.
The revised plan is nearing completion and should be lodged with SODC by the end of October to enable the next round of formalities to take place, in time to beat the district council’s referendum embargo.
A ‘yes’ vote for the NDP in the referendum will give the village more certainty against any further housing development in the near future.